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NSF debuts youth Nordic ski program

Adia Waldburger, of the Record staff
Elite junior Rosie Brennan on course.
2006922__1Sports

This winter, the National Sports Foundation (NSF) is gliding into a whole new era. They are unveiling the strongest cross-country skiing program in their organization’s history complete with a new name.

The revamped cross-country program comes from a joining of forces. In past seasons, both the NSF and The Utah Nordic Alliance (TUNA) have run youth cross-country development programs in the Park City area. Two years ago when John Callahan, who was leading the TUNA junior racing program at the time, announced that he was leaving, the wheels in NSF executive director Greg Poirier’s head began to turn.

"I saw that their there could be a void in the program," Poirier said. "We wanted to make sure youth still had a good program in Park City."

So, the NSF approached TUNA and offered to take over the racing program. TUNA agreed and the NSF began running the elite racing team with Gordon Lange as coach. With 12-15 athletes, Lange had a lot of success, led by high school cross-country phenom Rosie Brennan who won multiple races at the Junior Olympics.

After that, it became clear that all of the youth cross-country programs in Park City should be unified and be run by the NSF. This year, they will offer a comprehensive slate of programming for everyone from beginners to elite called the Park City Nordic Ski Club.

"We wanted to be able to have a program that’s seamless," Poirier said.

He believes that one super program will only make cross-country skiing in Utah that much more successful and well known. The TUNA junior program in Salt Lake will stay intact, but Poirier says that his programs are open to racers from the valley and any of the surrounding areas.

"We don’t want to turn people away that don’t live here," Poirier said.

For kids that have grown up training with TUNA, the NSF is not planning any drastic changes, but rather more enhanced offerings.

"What we’re really providing is a program that is similar to what’s been offered in the past," Poirier said.

Athletes will now be able to take advantage of multiple opportunities to maximize their competitiveness. At the top levels, youth can train to try and qualify for the Junior Olympics and other national competitions. They will also offer recreational programs for children who just enjoy participating in the sport. Cost and fees will also remain nearly the same.

For beginners, the Park City Nordic Ski Club will offer Kickers and Gliders, recommended for children ages 7-11, but not limited to that age group. The program is an introduction to cross-country skiing, with focus on fundamentals, and some local races opportunities for those that are interested. The classes meet Mondays and Wednesdays from Dec. 1- Feb. 28, with one day devoted to classic style and the other to skate skiing.

The next level is the cross-country development team, which is devoted to improving overall skills and preparing children for more regular competition. The classes meet Monday, Wednesday and Friday from October until the middle of March with structured workouts and fun activities.

The top level will be the Elite Competition Program designed for serious ski racers. Poirier says that they will employ the latest training techniques, including peaking and periodization and will help youth to prepare for qualifying for the Junior Olympics, which will be held at Soldier Hollow this season. Poirier hopes to see many members of the program do well in national competitions as well as earn spots on collegiate teams or even the U.S. Ski Team. The program will run year round, starting May. 15- March 31.

Poirier realizes that many of the athletes at the highest level may also compete in other sports such as long-distance running or team sports, so he says the program is flexible, but he wants to keep training on-going to offer the maximum benefits.

"A this level, we offer a competitive program that is truly year-round, so they can be the best cross-country athletes that they can be," Poirier said.

Most of the classes and training will be held at the White Pine Touring center, with occasional sessions at the Utah Olympic Park and Soldier Hollow. They will also offer discounted White Pine season passes to all participants.

Poirier says that during the season the Park City Nordic Ski Club will participate in everything from the Wasatch Citizens races to Junior Olympic qualifiers, the Junior Olympics and the cross-country nationals.

Lange will serve as the head coach over all the programs and hire as many coaches as are needed based on enrollment. Poirier says that initially they are employing an "open-door" policy and trying to accommodate as many young skiers as are interested.

The new Park City Nordic Ski Club will also encompass Nordic combined and ski jumping disciplines.

Anyone interested in the learning about the Park City Nordic Ski Club new cross-country skiing program may attend an informational meeting that will be held on Oct. 4 at the Miners Hospital on the second floor from 7-9 p.m. All athletes, parents and Nordic enthusiasts are welcome to attend. For more information, call 645-7660.


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